1960s Beltone (United-made) Modified Resonator Guitar

The headstock reads Beltone but this was pretty clearly made by United out of New Jersey around 1960-1965. It's the first one of this design I've seen and considering how its original paper resonator cone sounded when it came in, I can see why they didn't make very many of them.

Fortunately, I had a local customer who's been after me for a 14-fret, lightweight, woodbody resonator guitar for a while and while this one was quite a bit of work to get functional, it turned-out fantastic. Work included a neck reset, board plane and refret, recut of the top hole for the cone, install of a new aluminum resonator cone (using a Jake-ified "upside-down National cone" setup), original bridge modification to suit the new cone, and setup work. At the end of it, I also installed a K&K Twin Spot acoustic pickup and fit some strap buttons so it would be ready to gig.

Because the guitar's build is so lightweight and made from thin plywood, the top and back give the instrument a lot of extra body warmth that a resonator guitar with a more isolated soundboard/soundwell would not have. In a room, this thing sounds about as loud as your average National woodbody from the '30s but has a tone that's directly in-between a biscuit-bridge setup and a spider-bridge setup in a Dobro. It's warm and chunky like a Dobro and direct and punchy and snappy like a National. It lacks the long sustain and upper-mids honky "burr" to the voice that Dobros have, though.

Here's the original, weirdo, paper speaker-cone setup. Odd!

Here's the original T-bridge setup. The post actually rests on the back of the guitar and the "wings" of the bridge top rest on the outer edges of the paper cone. Unfortunately, the sound on this was... not good. I like the idea but it might be better-suited to the tension of a ukulele and without a center post.

Above is the new cone in test-fitting before I fit it directly in place with a few screws and metal tape. One thing I don't like with resonators is the cone moving-around by accident when they're on the road.

I was really happy with the way this bridge setup turned-out. It's easy to adjust on the fly and sounds excellent. This cone/bridge setup can also be installed this way in pretty much any guitar with a flat top.